Sunday, May 1, 2016

Australian dairy farmers its time to unite

Since I married my husband 10 years ago, I’ve been a dairy farmer and so a part of the Australian Dairy Industry.  During that time I have seen and experienced many things - drought, flood, plagues of locusts, high and low water, fodder and milk prices and many other things.
I’ve learnt a lot and seen a lot and know I’m proud to be a dairy farmer - that owning and running a dairy business is not an easy thing to do - that there are many challenges thrown our way but somehow we somehow keep going and adapting to continue to farm.
However events in the last few days have seen many of us almost at the end of our tether.  As a dairy farmer in Northern Victoria we are already struggling with high temporary water prices (and water is the life blood of dairying in my region), high fodder prices, little or no rainfall and a general despondency starting to happen.  
Then to cap all of that off, last Wednesday the company that we supply our milk to and are also shareholders of, Murray Goulburn, announced a step down in our milk price and that the affects of this decrease in milk payments would have implications to our business for the next 3 years.  A way forward had been worked out that would see us still continue to receive ok payment for the rest of this financial year - however the cost of the increased payments received by suppliers for the whole of FYI 16 would have to be borne/paid back by continuing suppliers for the next 3 years.
This revelation has hurt and upset many and has led to many farmers saying they are going to leave the industry and/or possibly change milk supply companies.
Yes our operation is hurting from this news - we have just had to let go of one of our staff and are looking at reducing the size of our herd and the amount of litres we will be sending to the factory 
BUT
I think now is the time for clear and wise thinking.  Don’t just leap in and say thats it, Im quitting, Im selling my herd, Im leaving Murray Goulburn etc etc.  Take time to make clear and informed decisions.  Seek advice from trusted advisors or if you don’t have one - seek out one.
Do you figures and do them several times using different scenarios.  Look at everything up down and inside out.  Know you business and where it is heading.Then and only then can you make decisions. Once you know the options, then you can choose one. You may decide to stay the same, you may decide to peg back the business and you may even decide it is time sell up. But what ever decision you make, it will be a measured calculated one. You can then move forward with more confidence than before and your head held high.  And it will be your decision.
AND
Stop grumbling and complaining and pointing fingers.  Yes things are going to be tight and tough and yes there are things we cant control.  But there are things we can control and take control of them - cow numbers, feed budgets, feed for your cattle, which milk company to supply and again make wise decisions around those things. 
Don’t bag those in the industry who are prepared to stand up for ALL dairy farmers - e.g. the UDV (United Dairy Farmers of Victoria ) who as soon as the news hit the airwaves made a beeline for every milk company, bank and even the government looking to bring our case to their notice and acting for ALL dairy farmers and not just their members. Same deal with ADF (Australian Dairy Farmers) and DA (Dairy Australia) and their regional development programs - Murray Dairy, WestVic Dairy and GippsDairy. Its easy to say what they aren't doing but have a good hard look at what they ARE doing and support their work.
Don’t like it? Then stand up and be counted like they are prepared to.  Don't grumble and complain - unite and support each other - there is great power in numbers.
Also its easy to blame the MG board and chair and say they haven't done everything properly - perhaps they have and perhaps they haven’t, but all will be revealed in due time.  Many are dairy farmers too and this decision is also hurting their businesses.  
We are the Australian Dairy Industry - dairy farmers doing what we love to supply milk and dairy products to both Australians and overseas.  We will not fail because of this - we will have a good hard united crack at it.  


We need to show others that we are brave strong and resilient.  And if someone offers to help - take it!  Ask others to buy Australian dairy products.  If every Australian added an extra dairy item to their supermarket trolley it would make a huge difference.
Its time for Australian dairy farmers to stand up in a united way and move forward.
Di Bowles, fulltime professional dairy farmer